A non governmental organization, Home of the Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) has called on the Federal government and the Cross River State government to immediately stop its assault on some of the best preserved rain forests in Nigeria within the Cross River National Park and the Ekuri Community Forest all in Cross River State.
In a statement issued by HOMEF, these forests are under serious threat of being destroyed to make way for a Super Highway that can easily be re-routed to preserve our communities as well as enormous biodiversity including rare and endangered species.
The 260km Super Highway is planned to lead from a proposed deep sea port at Esighi in Bakassi Local Government Area and to run through the Cross River National Park and up to Katsina Ala in Benue State, Nigeria, at a cost of N700 billion or about $3.5bn.
Not only is the natural fauna is being threatened by this dramatic and outrageous appropriation project, the rights of the land and indigenous communities in the process of being forcefully taken from them.
“All rights of occupancy existing or deemed to exist on all that piece of land or parcel of land lying and situate along the Super Highway from Esighi, Bakassi Local Government Government Area to Bekwarra Local Government Area of Cross River State covering a distance of 260km approximately and having an offset of 200m on either side of the centre line of the road and further 10km after the span of the Super Highway, excluding Government Reserves and public institutions are hereby revoked for overriding public purpose absolutely.”
HOMEF also stated that a was submitted by the Chiefs and people of Okokori Village of Obubra Local Government to the Cross River State government on the 13th of February protesting the revocation of the right to their lands including settlements, farmlands and community forest as a calculated attempt to extinguish them as a people.
“Since the revocation of all our lands for a Super highway have damning consequences on us and our environment, we are compelled not to welcome this project as the ulterior motive of your government is to grab our lands and make us worthless, ignoring the fact we voted overwhelmingly for you to better our lot but not to punish us unjustifiably.” HOMEF said.
HOMEF and these communities firmly rejects the routing of the Super Highway through their forest, the
“Our forest is our wealth and the beacon of our hopes and aspirations many things are wrong with this planned routing of the Super Highway. First, if allowed to proceed along the path that has been planned, it would destroy the aforementioned forests and equally impact other forests and communities.”
“We find it unacceptable that a project of this magnitude is pursued without regard to the law and in defiance of the rights of communities,” says Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation.
He states further “Although the President conducted a ceremonial ground breaking exercise on 30th October 2015, that cannot be construed to mean an approval for the project to proceed without meeting the requirements of the law, particularly that of Environmental Impact Assessment. Moreover, as required by law, an EIA cannot be claimed to have been conducted if there are no consultations with citizens that would be impacted by the project.”
According to Bassey, HOMEF is calling on the Government to, comply with the laws of the land including by conducting Environmental Impact Assessment, other relevant assessments and consultations as enshrined in ILO Article 169,halt the rampaging bulldozers that are already destroying farms at Etara/Eyeyen and are continuing towards Ekuri and Okuni forests/communities.
The organization also called on the government to reroute the Super Highway along a less damaging path and away from Community forests and the National park and reward and support communities that protect our forests rather than penalize and dispossessing, displacing and impoverishing them.
HOMEF also calls on all peace loving Nigerians and citizens of the world to join the call to rethink this project and work to preserve the tranquility that has reigned in this forest before the threat of the bulldozers.